A Government Major Finds Political Purpose in Bolivian Uprising

The sudden resignation this week of Bolivian president Evo Morales was a positive turn of events for Yasser Aburdene, who had been spending his evenings this fall at the Bolivian embassy in Washington, D.C., along with others protesting Morales’ questionable election victory.

“We celebrated outside the embassy, and while we were there the ambassador also resigned,” Aburdene reported on Monday after hearing the news of Morales’ resignation. “This opens a transition from him to the residents of Bolivia to openly use the embassy until a new ambassador comes.” Aburdene said he intends “to be part of that transition, along with other leaders of this movement, and fight for democracy.”

It should come as no surprise that the politically minded 24-year-old is in his final semester as a Government and International Politics major who aspires to one day run for elected office in Virginia. While he’s adopted the Commonwealth as his new home—he’s lived in Virginia since emigrating with his father and brother at age 17—he remains passionate about Bolivian freedoms.

“Yasser's work with the protest movement is a wonderful example of how George Mason University students are able to bridge the divide between classroom education and real-world political action,” said Edward Rhodes, one of Aburdene’s professors at the Schar School of Policy and Government. “His activities are combining his passion and energy, his commitment to the future of Bolivia, and the skills and insights developed here at Mason.”

Aburdene’s time at Mason has been action-packed. A member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, he’s also a member of Mason’s College Republicans, the Young Americans for Liberty organization, and he volunteers with Americans for Prosperity. After his December graduation, the first-generation college student will look for work in local nonprofits as he gears up to study for a master’s degree. “And eventually a PhD,” he added.

The nightly protests at the embassy made him familiar to organizers who staged a massive rally at the Lincoln Memorial earlier this fall. He was invited to make remarks before the chanting crowd, facing a bank of cameras, and with a large flag of Bolivia projected behind him.

Anyone might have been intimidated by the raucous scene, but just before he was to speak, an organizer took him aside and said, “Don’t be nervous, but there are 10,000 people here.”

“Why did she have to tell me that?” Aburdene said, laughing. “I suddenly was so nervous.”

While he had a speech prepared, he instead delivered a message “from the heart,” he said. He spoke of unifying Bolivia’s disparate races and reminded the audience to have faith that political change would come.

Evo Morales resigned on Sunday.